Every so often Steve and I get an itching to just do.. something. Go somewhere, or try something new and just occupy ourselves. In this case we were trawling through mini break deals on various Groupon sites when we came across one for rooftop camping – or glamping – in the city. This was just the kind of midweek break from the norm were looking for, so at 4am the night before we booked it for that oncoming day. With the discounted offer, our one night stay worked out at $249 instead of the full price of $410 – which was a pretty decent saving. I never mind paying for new experiences, but I think spending anything over $300 to stay in a tent would have been overkill.
The site itself was on top of Melbourne Central, a shopping centre right in the middle of the city and one we knew well. The whole concept was a collaboration between the shopping centre and an events company called Get Notorious. Get Notorious – headed by hospitality expert Jerome Borazio – are well known in Melbourne for their quirky hospitality venues and bars such as Ponyfish Island and Thousand Pound Bend, and also responsible for organising consistently sold out laneway festivals. Their now defunct (to make way for a shopping centre) laneway bar ‘St Jeromes’ was their first ever venture and one of Melbourne’s most loved bars – so it makes sense that this rooftop camping venture would be called ‘St Jerome’s – The Hotel’.
Check in was from 3pm, and there was a kind of ‘itinerary’ that came with the deal, listing things like ‘…Afternoon tea from 3pm to 5pm, Cocktail hour from 5pm to 7pm and Grill’d burgers from 8pm to 10pm…’ Also included was ‘…A breakfast hamper delivered to your tent, A complimentary stocked esky in your tent, Complimentary bowling..’, the promise of ‘Onsite reception gurus available 24 hours’ and ‘Concierge service with expert help from a team of Dream Makers’. As we wanted to get the most from the experience and not miss any of these awesome sounding features, we packed our overnight bag and headed in to the city sharpish – arriving bang on 3pm.
The reception to the hotel was located on the circular top floor of the shopping centre (logically near where the door to the roof would be) just beside Strike bowling alley and the other neighbouring restaurants and bars. We waited at an empty reception desk for a bit before one of the staff members appeared to check us in and then lead us to our tent. The site was SO impressive.
Equally as impressive was the tent and all it’s features!
We were so impressed at the attention to detail. A hamper at the end of the bed boasted a tablet with a Netflix equivalent streaming app, fluffy bathrobes, sleep-masks, slippers, a book about Melbourne, a bowling pin that you were to bring to Strike bowling to redeem your free game (a quirky touch), Umbrellas, towels, an extra blanket and a mini cooler (‘esky’) with beers from a local brewery and some water. The bed linen and cushions were beautiful, as were the other furnishings. We had no qualms about being cold during the night as there was a heater in the tent – which was already on and creating a super cosy heat when we stepped inside.
Our anticipation to get there was definitely a bit premature though, as there was literally no one around. We snagged a few cupcakes from the ‘afternoon tea’ set up and decided to go get some food in the city. Upon returning to the site – and finding again there was no one around the drinks stand to make cocktails for ‘cocktail hour’ – we decided to carry the full sized bowling pin down to Strike bowling to redeem our free game. Oddly enough this was the most fun we had of the whole experience. I’m not saying it’s just because we bought two giant $20 cocktail jam jars to help the game along, however most bowling alleys in Australia having a bar as standard does make for some hilarious bowling. After we managed to complete our game, we made our giddy return back to the tent to stream some documentaries on the tablet and fall asleep (in a bed sadly comfier than our own.)
In the morning we had our breakfast hamper and some coffee delivered – which was a nice touch. Check out was at 11, however St. Jerome’s had arranged a deal with Nike to use the space for a corporate event the next day. We could hear these Nike affiliated people setting up all morning and someone had actually stuck their head in our tent to see if we had checked out yet… bit invasive? Although we were well within our time before checkout, we felt totally out of place hearing all of this go on outside and decided to leave early.
All in all the tent, furnishings, attention to detail and site itself was the most impressive. The service however, was not. If St. Jerome’s put as much effort into service as they did aesthetic I have no doubt they would have been fully booked every day of the week. It’s a shame we arrived feeling so impressed but left feeling disappointed. If we hadn’t booked the deal through Travelzoo and had shelled out the full $410 for that experience it would have been worse though. It was definitely more of a ‘self service’ experience. Still, it’s always nice to try something new and at least we can add ‘camping on a rooftop in the city’ to the list.
– Aisling Abbey
Photography by Steve Franco